ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota legislators are close to approving major changes in the way the state licenses teachers.

The Pioneer Press reports that proposed changes would consolidate standards and teacher licensing under a new Professional Educator Licensing Board. It would create a four-tier system and streamline the process to license teachers who are trained out of state or have unconventional backgrounds.

The bills received bipartisan support in both chambers and include input from teachers, school leaders, and state officials who have been pushing for years to fix a system many say is confusing and unfair.

Supporters say they hope the new system will help address Minnesota's growing shortage of educators in key specialties, such as math, science and special education. The shortages are the most acute in the rural part of the state.